FINDING ROOTS IN NIGERIA
The relationships among the Adewumi children of Ibadan above says a lot about what family means in the Nigeria of today. On the far left is Pricilla Ajayi, a cousin, taken in at age six months and reared with the other children. The girl in pink and the boy just behind, are children from one of father Timothy Adewumi's wives....the girl in tie-dye and the boy wearing the watch are children from Timothy's second wife.
SAM AND TIMOTHY ADEWUMI
All five, plus another daughter not pictured here, are in boarding school, technical school or a university, and Timothy Adewumi, a middle-classed businessman, says he spends 70 percent of his income on school fees. But he says among Yorubas like himself, education is a valued treasure. His Dad died when he was young and he did not get to pursue higher education. He's making sure his children have the best chance to succeed.
Our point in visiting was to see how a middle-classed Nigerian family lived. In the hours we visited them, it didn't seem that their life is so different from a middle-classed family in the United States. Both Timothy and his wife Doris, who lived there, had their own car. They conserved air conditioning, by only cooling one room, the living room-dining room. Their kitchen and bathrooms had running water, but it was not water used for drinking. The drinking and cooking water came from a well outside the house, but inside the walls that surrounded the house. Each of the children had his or her own room and the parents' room had it's private bath. Their living room, like many an American living room was full of famly pictures. The TV was tuned to a gospel program with the TV preacher shouting and dancing across the stage. We learned the Adewumis are serious born-again Christians.
ADEWUMI LIVING ROOM
But we also learned that the Adewumis and many Nigerias are very different in their thinking from Americans. There is, for example, no social safety net such as welfare or Social Security. Therefore the best social safety net a father and mother can have is lots of children whom they can hope will take care of them when they are too old to provide for themselves. And for that reason, marriage is a much more serious proposition, it seemed, than in the United States. You frequently heard twentysomething and thirtysomething Nigerians talking about being "financially stable" before getting married. One reason is they have so many responsibilites, such as being able to care of parents or to take in the children of relatives who are less fortunate. That is a common practice.
Interviewing the Adewumis
As we interviewed the Adewumis certain matters jumped out at us. The wife Doris told us her main concern was the welfare of her children and that another was:
Men in Nigeria, you be fearing they have another home.
I was surprised that a Christian had multiple wives, to which Timothy responded that it is our tradition.
Are you friends with the other wife? I asked Doris.
No, she responded. She said her husband should treat his families equally.
Then there was the issue of Doris and Timothy's 15 year old son, Samson, who attends a Christian boarding school. In the US such as school would probably be raided by the authorities for abuse, yet Samson said they must spend two hours from midnight until 2 am praying every night. Then they are up at 5 a.m. to begin their day.
Do they beat you? I asked Samson.
Yes, they do beat. he replied.
They beat you? asked Timothy, looking surprised, I'm hearing this for the first time.
Timothy, however, said he was not angered to learn that his son was being beated at school, I beat him, too, he said.
We spoke with the two twentysomething women about marriage. Both said love can wait for financial stability. Priscilla Ajayi said something else about marriage in Africa. The woman must bring a degree of indepdence to it to be respected.
In Africa, the average man who gives a lad something, as in money, will want to take advantage of the lady. You can't complain eve if you're hurt. You have to be like a slave.
I asked whether that meant that she was not going to be subservient to her husband.
I' ll definitely be submissive, she said, but added, He will be the head. I will be the neck, not the tail.
I am a proud Daddy. I love them.
TIMOTHY WITH HIS TWO UNIVERSITY DAUGHTERS
A VISIT TO CYBER LAND